the Slovenian
glasilo magazine
radio glas
info centre
who we are

The Capabilities of Slovenian Winemaking
by Julij Nemanic

Slovenia's accession to the EU understandably gave rise to questions regarding the preparedness of Slovenian winemakers for doing business in Europe. The biggest change will undeniably be the marketing of wine: the Slovenian consumer can now purchase wines from all continents. This is a new situation with which we have little experience. The proverbial curiosity of wine aficionados is a fact in Slovenia, as it is elsewhere, and imported wines will certainly grab a share of the wine market. Moreover, there has so far been little incentive for exports, as we have managed to sell most of our production on the Slovenian market.

Traditionally, wine has been an integral part of the food culture and get-togethers for many Slovenes. Per capita, wine consumption is also quite significant at 40 litres per person per year, which is favourable for domestic sales. Slovenes also show national affiliation through the veneration of our wines, with which we like to identify at local and national levels. There is also a great desire among wine drinkers to learn more about wines; the culture of drinking is gaining in importance and moderate wine consumption with food is forcing out the binge drinking that used to be the norm. Winemakers know that we will have to pay much greater attention to the domestic buyer than before. We have excellent natural conditions that make it possible to produce a wide variety of wines of various characters from a total of 34 recommended and permitted grape varieties. These include autochthonous varieties that produce unique wines which are made nowhere else in the world and which are highly respected in Slovenia. These wines are successful attention-grabbers, for they are a true discovery for many wine connoisseurs from other countries.

Most of our vineyards are planted on steep hillsides where conditions are harsh but the wine is better. Certain wine cellars are state-of-the-art and Slovenia has enough oenological knowledge to keep up with global developments in grape and wine production. Terroir wines have also been gaining ground, making it easier to win over European wine connoisseurs, while no major estate has opted for machine grape picking, which is a good sign.

Europe is a challenge for us. We have excellent natural resources for the production of high-quality wines as well as the people who want to do it and have the know-how. Yet I am convinced that we have failed to make our government more aware of the new winemaking conditions in Europe. The European market is under heavy pressure through globalisation from New World countries that want to have a market share. The economically strongest wine producing countries (France, Germany…) sensed the economic threat to their wines and adopted in 2000 a 20-year plan for the restructuring of their viticulture and winemaking that has been implemented thoroughly. Slovene winemaking is economically much more vulnerable than in France or Germany. The government must not overlook that fact and should take appropriate measures to preserve and strengthen winemaking in the new global conditions.

Slovenian wines are now well known in Europe; we have only been able to promote them on European and world markets since we created an independent State for our nation. But our legislation is not sufficiently supportive of the efforts of progressive winemakers to bring about a renaissance of collective wine brands based on new and contemporary foundations. With strict criteria for grape and wine production with regard to wine districts, modelled on France's AOC, we should develop wines of a more balanced quality and recognisable character. Organising small winemakers that way would surely be a successful medicine for the ails of the fragmented Slovenian winemaking-industry.

(Content abstracted from "Slovenija.svet" published by Slovenska izseljenska matica.)